Sharp XV-Z17000 Projector Review
First seeing a non-functioning sample of the Sharp XV-Z17000 at CEDIA last September, it's been a long wait getting one in for review. I was very excited when I first learned the specs of the XV-Z17000, and have been impressed while reviewing. Although not inexpensive, at $4999, it is actually one of the least expensive 1080p 3D projectors so far. Our review projector is pre-production.
This XV-Z17000 came complete with a big SAMPLE sticker on the top. Since much of the 2D aspects are carry forward, we expected a pretty stable 2D projector, and that has proved true. 3D projectors, being pretty new, are always an "experience."
This Z17000 review is being posted in pieces since I promised at least part, before Superbowl. First posting includes only first page, the tour, and pieces of Image and Performance pages. The review should be complete by the 8th.
February 2011 - Art Feierman
Sharp XV-Z17000 Projector Overview
Let's start with a few core points about the new 3D projector from Sharp, the XV-Z17000. It's February 2011 and this projector is just starting to ship. That makes it one of the few 1080p 3D projectors now shipping, and, perhaps the least expensive. Ok, the XV-Z17000, in terms of price, ties with the JVC DLA-RS40. The rest of the 3D projectors out there sporting 1080p so far are all more, mostly, a lot more.
This Sharp XV-Z17000, or, for short, the Z17000, is a single chip DLP projector using TI's Darkchip3.. It is based on Sharp's XV-Z15000, in fact, looks just like it. We reviewed the Z17000's predecessor about a year and a half ago. It is a projector that sells for around $2000 and change, so adding the 3D brings a big jump in price to $4,999. Since the XV-Z17000 is essentially a newer, and a 3D capable upgrade to the Z15000, which will remain in the lineup, it has a lot in common with it's older sibling.
Placement flexibility, as we discuss, is limited (typical of many DLP projectors), but picture quality really did impress. Like the older Z, the Z17000 has very respectable - ultra-high contrast black level performance. Of course 3D is a whole different world when it comes to discussing blacks, as we will get into later, in discussions of brightness.
Of course the projector has HDMI 1.4a inputs, that's a cornerstone to the Blu-ray 3D spec (though there are work arounds). I want to mention also, that this Sharp at least supports some of the optional 3D modes as spec'd by HDMI 1.4a.
I mention this right now, because, as it turns out, ESPN 3D, coming across DirecTV, as of early '11, happens to be using one of those optional 3D modes, and not all projectors support it. To clarify, I believe this is a DirecTV issue, not ESPN 3D's.
This hasn't bothered this Sharp projector - it's perfectly happy as proved by the fact that I have been watching the Winter X-Games 3D today (previously recorded). Not so lucky, is JVC's top of the line 3D projector, their RS60 (at $12,000). The JVC doesn't support that optional modes (at least not yet?) Basically when it comes to viewing 3D over DirecTV, today - Feb. 2011, the JVC is a boat anchor. JVC owners with cable instead of DirecTV may or may not have this problem. Meanwhile, the far less expensive Sharp does it no problem!
Back to the Sharp projector itself. Thanks to 3D viewing, projector brightness achieves a whole new level of importance. Sorry folks, many home theater projectors coming out simply aren't really bright enough to watch 3D, certainly not regularly. Looks like this Sharp Z17000, so far, is one of the brighter ones. My initial impression is that it's watchable in 3D on a 100" screen, but brighter would be a lot better.
Before we all despair over the 3D brightness issue, there may be a solution, and that is, screen selection. There are many aspects to that, but it is a way of significantly upping a 3D projector system's overall brightness.
The big decision for many of you, won't be whether this Sharp projector is worth the bucks compared to other 3D capable projectors, but whether this is the right time to go 3D. Like anything else new, it will improve a lot in the next couple of years. Some of us (including me) don't want to be without, for another year or two- even if we only watch a small amount of content in 3D, Also I'm a big fan of Discovery HD type of content (and History HD, and ScyFy HD and Travel HD...) and we're going to see 3D content explode in that segment. I'd be surprised if there isn't well more than 1000 hours of great "hdtv channel" type 3D content out there, before 2012 rolls around. (The time equivalent of 500 movies!) While I don't think the 2012 Super Bowl will be in 3D, the BCS championship game will be, and tons of other sports.
After all, if you really do enjoy some things in 3D, a lot better than 2D, then how long are you prepared to wait?
For those of us used to changing out projectors (because we're hobbyists and enthusiasts) every year or two or three, may want to make the move sooner, in which case if the XV-Z17000 projector is in your price range, it could prove to be a most tempting choice, for a 3D projector today. For those wanting 3D, or thinking maybe you will, but in no hurry, a wait and see attitude may be the right approach. Read on, we'll try to paint an accurate enough picture of the 3D experience with the Sharp XV-Z17000, to help you make a good decision.
Let's get started, first some basics, then special features - specifically; 3D
Sharp XV-Z17000 Projector Highlights
- 1080p 3D for under $5000
- Great color accuracy, post calibration, despite limited color controls
- Slightly brighter than average in brightest mode - just barely enough for 3D on smaller screens
- 3D uses active shutter glasses (2 pair provided)
- Limited placement flexibility - lack of lens shift, limited zoom lens
- Average noise levels (could be quieter) that are typical of DLP projectors
- Unlike many 3D capable projectors, works well with most screens
- Basically the same 2D projector performance as the Z15000 which, when reviewed, was one of the better under $2500 projectors
- HDMI 1.4a for Blu-ray 3D compatibility
- Supports the "optional" HDMI 3D standard that DirecTV uses for 3D channels, some other 3D projectors won't work with DirecTV for 3D
Specs for Sharp XV-Z17000 Projector
MSRP: $4999, MAP (est. street price) $
Technology: DLP, Single chip
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: Manufacturer claim: 1600 lumens
Measured Brightness: "best mode": 670 lumens, "brightest" 1195 lumens (pre-production unit)
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.15:1 Manual zoom and focus
Lens shift: None
Lamp life: est.up to 2000 hours at full power, 3000 hours in eco mode
Weight: 12.8 lbs. ( 5.7 Kg)
Warranty: 3 Year Parts and Labor, with 90 day lamp warranty
View full specifications and data sheet: Sharp XV-Z17000
Sharp XV-Z17000 Special Features
3D Projector features
The Sharp 3D, XV-Z17000 accomplishes it's 3D mode by using alternate frames and active shutter glasses, as do virtually all single chip DLP projectors with 3D, and, for that matter, most LCoS projectors as well. (We're all still waiting for a conventional LCD 3D projector, but there are some issues - LCoS (also liquid crystal) seems to be the better choice so far.
The primary problem with the Sharp Z17000's 3D, is the same problem that plagues, probably all 3D solutions out there to some degree, and that, folks, is a lack of brightness. (As far as I'm concerned almost all 3D movie theaters are too dim - wachable, but too dim.)
Like any projector relying on active matrix glasses, essentially less than 25% of the light makes it you your eyeballs. That's right, a projector capable of putting out 1000 lumens, will look a touch dimmer doing 3D, than a 2D projector with only 250 lumens! Basically, projector manufacturers need to really up the brightness, or we home theater projector fans are going to end up very limited in screen size. But seriously, this Sharp projector is a little thin on lumens on a standard 100" diagonal screen. It should look pretty good on something small for a projector - say, an 82". Or, it can probably look great on the right, bright screen surface, but I'm still awaiting the arrival of several new screens.
But, keep in mind, only a small percentage of your viewing will be 3D, and I think those of us buying this year, will have to, to some degree, accept that we're likely to be a little underpowered when watching 3D, though just fine with 2D.
Over all, the Sharp's 3D looks pretty good. Definitely some crosstalk (there always is) type "noise". Let's face it, 3D content, be it Avatar in IMAX or The Universe (in 3D) at home, the 3D image is not as smooth and transparent as 2D. Whether it's the brain, the projector, the content, or magic, 3D is rough around the edges. But, it's still really cool to watch!
My 3D viewing of the Sharp has been fairly extensive - relative to my limited library. I've viewed just a bit of the education and scientific content I have that I play from a PC with a 3D player, plus I have Monster House, Universe, and Alice in Wonderland. I've watched the last three, all the way through with the Sharp projector, and then some..
Animation is usually great in 3D, and Monster House looked very nicely 3D. Animation can be telling, but it almost always impresses, making it tough to really judge projectors with it. Universe (check out those astroids flying by, or the rings of Saturn), is killer content. Friends with 0 interest in such things have watched the entire episode on the Sharp. In fact the weakest experience was Alice in 3D. First, Alice isn't exactly serving up Avatar quality 3D, it seems Alice's 3D is more of an afterthought. Also significant is that a lot of Alice consists of dim scenes, and dim scenes on a 3D projector that could use more lumens, means really dim. Fortunately this Sharp isn't one of the really dim ones. We were able to put more than 1100 lumens out for 3D, so likely about 250 lumens made it to our eyes. Again, that wouldn't be bright on a 100" screen, but should do the job. We'll be talking about screen options elsewhere in this review.
Sharp XV-Z17000 Black Levels and 3D
Image below - from The Fifth Element movie:
Right off the bat, the Sharp's black level performance is very good as a 2D projector. So, what about 3D? The answer is simple: Don't even worry about it. You are starting with inherently really good blacks. But, in 3D almost certainly, your image will be underpowered. That will make your blacks much blacker still. Bottom line, don't worry about black level performance in general with the XV-Z17000 projector, and definitely not in 3D.
XV-Z17000 Color Management
The Sharp has minimal control for balancing grayscale, but does have a color management system two two CMS areas. You can select colors off the image, or use the provided color chart, then tune the saturation hue, etc. We normally do not calibrate individual colors so we didn't work with it. It does look like a very reasonable setup.